Today was the day. Today I began reading my book to Leonard Pennario. We went through the first three chapters. I do not have all the chapters written yet but I have something like 12 of them in some kind of shape.
Everyone back home was always asking me if I would be nervous, reading Pennario what I wrote. "No," I always said. "I am a professional. I trust my instincts."
Because here is what happened. First of all lastnight I couldn't sleep from nerves. I was tossing and turning all night under this big heavy suede hide the hotel gives me to sleep under. I got up at 6 and honest, I rewrote the entire introduction to the book. I decided the old one wasn't good enough. At 10:30 a.m. I called Staples down the street (that is the advantage to being in Corporateville: there are always places like Staples around) and got them to print out my new intro. Then I grabbed it on my way over to Pennario's.
Now it is time. We are sitting in his room, facing each other, a couple of feet apart. I mean, Leonard is right in front of me. And I say, "OK, do you want to hear what I wrote? Should I start reading this to you?" And he says, "Yes!"
And I had this nice strong speech all ready and to my horror I couldn't say the words. I took a deep breath and all that came out was a squeaky: "I'm so nervous!"
And Pennario said gently, "Don't be."
Then we both needed glasses of water.
And then we got started. I read him the first sentences. I am in love with the first two sentences of my book, I have to say. So I took heart, reading them. I glanced up, and he was smiling.
Then it was tougher going. Because this intro, it talks a lot about myself, and my feelings about this project, and my recollections of my first conversations with Pennario. It must be strange for Pennario to be reliving our conversations from my viewpoint. I realize this is all very personal for him but it is for me, too. So as I was reading I found myself growing self-conscious, glancing out in the hall, worrying. A few times between my braces and my nerves I stumbled over the words.
Most problematic parts to read: one part where I said that initially he was not the best interview, another part where I describe his great looks, and then there was another part that told about how beautiful his hands are and how he lets me and other people hold his hands and feel them. I had forgotten all this stuff was in there and suddenly here I was having to read it to him. Aaaaaiiiiieeee!
But Pennario kept smiling and laughing. "That's right," he said a couple of times. "That's accurate." Then he said: "I love this. This is so charming."
And he kept saying that! He said he was so happy with everything he heard, and I could tell that he meant it. Pennario doesn't lie to you. Later at lunch he said he also liked my segues. He used that word. Then he said, "That's such a beautiful word, 'segue.'" I like that he appreciates words the way I do. I am always pointing out in here when I like some word or other.
Speaking of Pennario's love of words, that is one reason I was nervous. He has read all the greatest novels and knows all the Shakespeare plays. He knows good writing.
But so far, so good. I am weak with gratitude and relief. This book is one of the biggest thrills of my life and to know that Pennario likes what I am doing means the world. And now I won't be as nervous, because he says he loves the tone of the book, its style. It is different from other music biographies, as you may have guessed. We wanted it that way. We had talked about that. We would like this to be a book interesting to everyone, not just classical music nuts.
Please, everyone, wish me continued luck!
Now I am going to go jump in the pool.